Missing for 20 years, she's not forgotten

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Of all the clues that 15-year-old Kelly Morrissey leftbehind more than 20 years ago, family, friends and police can draw only onecertain conclusion: She had no intention of running away.

Before meeting a friend the night of June 12, 1984, Morrissey had laid outher outfit for the next day - a new pair of black jeans with the tags yet to beremoved, and a blue, sleeveless, scoop-neck blouse. She took no extra clothes,no other belongings and no cache of savings that a runaway would be expectedto take. And she was due to get her paycheck the next day.

"You don't run away before pay day, without any money," said Iris Olmstead,61, Morrissey's mother. "You don't run off without your brand new jeans andshirt laid out to wear the next day. Nothing made sense."

Because of some apparent similarities between Morrissey's case and that ofTheresa Fusco, another Lynbrook girl who was killed the same year, Nassauhomicide detectives have recently re-opened the case. Even so, they say theyhave developed no new leads.

Morrissey, like some of her peers, had begun to push the limits, sometimessneaking off to the woods with friends to drink beer purchased by the oldercrowd who hung out at the local arcade, one friend said. She sometimes brokeher curfew, but she always came home, her mother said.

Since the day she vanished, Morrissey's picture has been posted in policedepartments and on milk cartons around the country. Her family realizes sheprobably is dead. But with no body and no physical evidence, it is hard forthem to let go of the last shard of hope that she could be alive somewhere.

Even after more than two decades, something as harmless as "Kelly" printedon a store clerk's name tag can still trigger their heartache.

Her mother and stepfather have put their Lynbrook home up for sale, but thethought of leaving is still difficult for them. Iris Olmstead still keeps aphone listing as Iris Morrissey, her name from her first marriage, just incase, she said.

"The phone could ring today and Kelly's on your mind," said Paul Olmstead,Morrissey's stepfather who, with his own children, began living with Iris andher children as a blended family in 1981.

Morrissey's disappearance also continues to gnaw at Nassau Homicide SquadDets. Michael O'Leary and Michael Kuhn, who are now officially investigatingher case. She had had some ties to two of the three men accused of raping andmurdering Morrissey's classmate, Theresa Fusco in 1984.

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Although detectives learned that Morrissey had bragged to classmates thatshe knew one of the defendants, Dennis Halstead, and had the key to hisapartment, they say there is no physical evidence linking Halstead to herdisappearance.

The convictions of Halstead and the other two men, John Restivo and JohnKogut, were overturned in 2003 because of DNA evidence pointing to another.

Prosecutors so far have decided to try Kogut again. Since the verdicts in theFusco homicide were vacated, homicide detectives renewed their investigation ofthe Fusco case as well as Morrissey's disappearance and the death ofJacqueline Martarella, 19, whose body was found in April 1985 in a grassy areanear the 17th hole of the Woodmere Country Club golf course.

The attorneys who worked to free the three defendants imprisoned for 17years for the Fusco murder also speculate that the two cases could be linked.

One of them, Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project, emphasized that theDNA evidence pointed to a fourth, unknown man. "The link is not DennisHalstead, John Restivo and John Kogut," she said. "And there has never been ashred of evidence to say that they had anything to do with Kelly Morrissey'sdisappearance."

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Kuhn and O'Leary also do not believe Morrissey ran away. But they say thereis nothing substantial to suggest the cases are related. "Her name kept comingup when we were looking into the Fusco case, through friends of both girls,"said Kuhn. "Somebody may think that this case is solved, that she came home.

But maybe we can jar people's memory [by talking about the case]. Somethingthey didn't think was important then, they might realize it's important now."

Morrissey's family worries it will never learn what happened to her.

"There are the same questions now as there were then," said Paul Olmstead,Morrissey's stepfather. "I don't expect miracles, but you never know."

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The last sighting of Morrissey, according to police records, was on thenight of June 12, 1984, after the two boys she and her friend, Gail Cole, weresupposed to meet never showed up. Morrissey mentioned she might stop in atCaptain Video, the local hangout, and began walking west down Merrick Road inLynbrook. No one police interviewed remembered seeing Morrissey at the videoarcade.

The spot was known as a hangout for more than the high school kids. Others,mostly men, in their late teens and 20s socialized there as well. Sometimes,Kelly and her underage friends would pay these men to purchase beer for them,said her high school friend Regina Nezamoodeen.

She and Morrissey hung out in crowds that sometimes overlapped, they bothliked Led Zeppelin and playing Miss Pac Man at Captain Video.

Morrissey was a typical teenager, who took pains to be well groomed, blowdrying her feathered hair and applying fresh make-up each morning, saidNezamoodeen, now 36, of North Babylon. She too said she believes Morrisseydidn't run away.

"The next day was our ninth- grade social studies final exam," Nezamoodeensaid. "If Kelly didn't pass the final, she would have to repeat summer schooland she was determined to pass it."

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The teacher held up the exam for 10 minutes for her, Nezamoodeen recalled.

"Next thing you know, I don't remember who told me, she was missing,"Nezamoodeen said.

Nezamoodeen still thinks about Morrissey and wonders how her friend'sparents are doing. As a mother of a 15-month-old boy, she said she can onlybegin to imagine the pain of a child gone missing. Sometimes when she isdriving, the question of just where Morrissey could be emerges.

"When we went to Virginia I thought of Kelly," Nezamoodeen said. "And Isaid to my husband, 'There are so many places to toss a body and never have itfound.' Kelly could be anywhere."

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